Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tchaikovsky: Symphony #6

Today we'll cover Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, from a live CD recording by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Valery Gergiev.
Valery Gergiev and the Wiener Philharmoniker
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6
Philips, 2004
The Sixth was Tchaikovsky's last symphony, and many music historians consider it his requiem, as he died just nine days after the work's premier. Also, the circumstances surrounding his death were unclear--did he die of cholera, or did he commit suicide?--adding to the controversy surrounding this composer's already highly controversial life.

We'll discuss more about Tchaikovsky's life, and in particular his, uh, eccentric personal life, in future posts.

Listener notes for Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony:
1) It's strange, but after really enjoying this symphony earlier this year (on another CD), I seem to have gone a bit limp on Tchaikovsky's Sixth. This is kind of a new experience for me: typically once I decide I like a classical music work, I keep on liking it. For some reason, however, this symphony just doesn't enthrall me quite like it did back in June. Why?

2) However, I still fell in love, all over again, with the second movement. Only a Russian could write such beautiful music about death and suffering.

3) Back to the first movement for a second: one feature I do like very much comes at the very end. Listen underneath the melody to the descending notes plucked by the basses and cellos during the last minute or so of the first movement.

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